Sunshine is great for solar panels efficiency, but too much sunshine causes the panels to heat up, and this is actually not so good- in fact it is the opposite.
Instead of seeing the dark side of the story, a team of bright scientists from Brunel University in London, went on a quest to find a way to turn this whole thing into a winning situation. They developed a hybrid system, which includes solar panels and heat pipes, not only using the sun to produce energy but also to heat up water. There is also an added advantage- no space on the roof goes to waste.
So, to look into the hybrid solar-water heating system a bit more closely and see how it functions. The heat pipes are optimized to collect as much solar radiation as possible, they are flat and have dimensions equaling 4mm (0.4cm) x 400mm (40cm). The function of these pipes is to transfer the heat away from the surface of the solar cells by using it to heat up water, and at the same time, making sure that the solar cells are cool enough to produce power with maximum efficiency.
The team ran preliminary tests in order to support their proof-of-concept, which gave the incredible 15% of additional cooling of the panels, when compared to standard solar installations. Now, not only that the panels were more efficient this way, and there was available hot water, but also the house temperature was not affected, therefore the new system might also minimize the need of additional insulation.
According to the makers, the hybrid solar-water heating system is extremely easy to install. There is already a prototype in the testing, and the results are very promising. Apparently, the efficiency of the pipes is so great that they can capture even the energy from the evaporating morning dew.
I am guessing the guys are seeking for extra funding, or for a keen investor to bring their technology to the market. There is no official news about this though, so we will have to wait and see whether there will be further development.
Image (c) Brunel University London